After denying it for days, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D) of New York has admitted sending lewd pictures of himself to women on Twitter. But he’s refusing to resign, as he says he did something “regrettable,” not illegal.
Of course, part of that is due to political schadenfreude. (Can we call that “poladenfreude”?) It’s always enjoyable when the people on the other side of the aisle commit a huge unforced error. When it’s somebody from your own team that’s expressing tearful repentance for misdeeds, it’s not so amusing.
But the anger at Congressman Weiner seems to surpass this level. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi immediately called for an ethics investigation. Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Rep. Steve Israel of New York said Weiner had “embarrassed himself, his family, and the House.”
An ethics probe could conceivably result in a recommendation that Weiner be expelled from the House, though at the moment that result seems unlikely. Ethics Committee staffers could figure out whether Weiner used government-provided computers for his actions, though – something the congressman is currently denying.
Anyway, why are Democrats particularly furious about this outrage? We can think of a number of reasons.
He overshadowed a Democratic victory. Right now the party is trying to promote the recent victory of Democrat Kathy Hochul in a special election in New York’s 26th congressional district as emblematic of a Democratic recovery from the debacle of the 2010 midterms. That’s the news that leads the DCCC’s web site, for example. Hochul’s win is supposed to show how concerns about the future of Medicare might doom Republicans in swing districts.
But with the eruption of Weiner’s troubles, cable news is spending a lot less time on Medicare. Suddenly the headlines are about a Democrat’s misdeeds, as opposed to a Democratic electoral gain. That’s just the kind of thing that would make Representative Pelosi want to break the perpetrator up into 140-character segments and Twitter them back to wherever they came from.
The scandal appears open-ended. Weiner’s actions did not involve one just one photo. There are many, to a number of women, and they’re going to keep leaking out to the news media, one by one. For instance, on Tuesday conservative activist Andrew Breitbart, who helped publicize the scandal, said he has an X-rated picture of Weiner he’s holding in reserve. The web site TMZ posted photos of a porn star who said she was one of Weiner’s Twitter paramours. And so on.
His wife worked for Hillary Clinton. Weiner’s wife Huma Abedin was an aide and confidant to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for years. You might think this would make things easier on Weiner, given Bill Clinton’s own infidelity, but we’re betting the reaction inside the still-powerful Clinton clan will be more complicated than that. If Hill and Bill turn against him, Weiner’s fundraising and party support could evaporate.
Ms. Abedin has yet to be heard from – she was pointedly not at his side during his press conference Monday – and her reaction could determine whether Weiner can ride out the political media storm that’s fast building around him.